Biography of Walter Marsh
CCCMan, Company 959, Mount Pleasant, Utah and Fairview, Utah
Bombadier, DFC, 398th Bomb Group, USAAF
My father Walter Marsh was born and raised in Magna Utah, in 1934 he left high school at the age of 16 and served with the CCC for 1-1/2 years. He was assigned to Camp 959 in Mount Pleasant Utah, and also near Fairview Utah. He returned home and graduated from Cyprus High School in 1937. The things he learned as a young man in the CCC, established a work ethic and character that shaped the remainder of his life.
He enlisted in the Army Air Corp in 1941 and after many different schools, including pilot training, he became a bombardier in the B-17.
We learned just a few years ago that he had been awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for his bravery over the skies of Germany. His plane was the lead on the bomb run. When they were over the target, dad released the bombs, but they did not drop. He returned control of the plane back to the pilot, who steered them away from the formation, and at 14,000 feet, my father, walking on the narrow cat walk between the bomb racks, releasing the bombs with a screw driver. A loaded plane cannot return to base, as the fuel consumption with a full load is too great. The planes would usually ditch if the bombs could not be released. His pilot credited him with saving the life of the entire crew. Dad never talked about what he had done. My mother learned about it from the pilot about 8 years ago while attending an Air Force reunion.
Dad flew a total of 29 missions, but was given credit for 35, due to the dangerous and long nature of some of the missions. He once told me that while flying over the English channel on D-Day, he looked down and likened the ships and landing craft heading towards Europe to thousands of ants crawling across the ground. Of the 269 men that left Kansas City for England at the same time my father did, 152 never returned. We as his family know that the good Lord was watching over him, and are very thankful for that.
About a year ago he went to England to attend a reunion of the 398th Bomb Group with our mother and his niece and her husband. Her husband described the trip in a newspaper article as follows, "The reunion was held at Anstey, England--a small village that was near the end of the runway from which the 398th took off to bomb Nazi Germany. Walt flew on 29 of those missions."
"Over the years the few hundred people of Anstey had collected over $150,000 to have a stained glass window produced and installed in their small church (built in 1074). In the beautiful glass window were inscribed 291 young men's names who had flown out of Anstey and were killed."
"When we got off the bus in front of the small church to attend the dedication, the bus driver jumped down to help Walt off the bus. As he did so, he put his hand on Walt's shoulder and said, "I want to thank you for what you did for all of us." It was wonderful to see that many of the people of England greatly appreciate the efforts put forth by the American veterans of WW II."
"I knew Walt for over 40 years and yet it was only at this reunion that my wife and I learned that Walt was a holder of the Distinguished Flying Cross....This was Walt's last reunion. He was a quiet man who never bragged or talked much about the war. I am glad that I knew him. We are sending a donation for the WW II memorial to honor Walt and all the other men and women who did their duty and kept us free. We encourage all to attend the display of the restored B-17 painted in the colors of the 398th now on display in Idaho Falls."
It was at the reunion that we learned of the bomb run where he had to walk over the open bomb bay to manually drop the bombs.
Again I tribute his parents for raising such a good man, but also his experiences as a teenager with the CCCs forged a character that has been an influence for good to all that knew him.
On March 12, 2001 my father passed away after a 5 year battle with leukemia. He was 83, and lived a very full life, but of course is missed by all that knew him.
Some time ago, I obtained a 1933 Chevrolet 1-1/2 ton truck, and restored it for my father as a CCC stake truck. These trucks were used by the CCC men for many purposes, from going back and forth to the work site to group trips into town on the weekends. Luckily, he did have a few opportunities to ride in the old chevy CCC truck. On This past Thanksgiving in Preston Idaho, he was able to ride in the festival of light parade. It was a real thrill to be able to drive him down the parade route as he was so proud of the truck, and his memories of the time he spent in the mountains of Utah with the CCCs.
It is important to remember the young men who worked so hard in the CCC. And I hope those whose fathers served in the CCCs, and are still with us, will do all they can to document their dad's personal histories. We are rapidly losing this special generation of Americans, and must do all we can to remember all the special things they did to make our lifes what they are today.
----- K. Marsh
Stake Truck, Restored 1933 Chevy
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